The attorney lives in a three room apartment in an apartment building and has been attempting since 1953 to obtain a four room apartment in the same building.
In February, 1956, the present landlord purchased the building. At various intervals the attorney was offered a four room apartment on the ground floor which he did not find acceptable.
In July, 1957, the landlord brought an action to increase the maximum rents on a net annual return basis and, at a tenants’ meeting called to defend the action, the attorney and two others who resided in the apartment house were retained by 86 of the 150 tenants to represent them in the proceeding. The action is still pending.
The attorney has now learned that there is a desirable four room apartment available in the building. On previous occasions the landlord had informed him that if there should be a four room apartment available he would let him have it because he had never been a “troublesome” tenant.
The attorney feels that the landlord will give him the apartment “at the same maximum rent and under the same terms and conditions as anyone else under the Rent Control Laws”, if he asks for it, but before doing so he is inquiring of the Committee as to whether there “are any ethical considerations involved” in his dealing with the landlord in this manner.
Canon 6 of the Canons of Professional Ethics is applicable.
The first two paragraphs of this Canon read as follows:
“6. Adverse Influences and Conflicting Interests.
It is the duty of a lawyer at the time of retainer to disclose to the client all the circumstances of his relations to the parties, and any interest in or connection with the controversy, which might influence the client in the selection of counsel.
It is unprofessional to represent conflicting interests, except by express consent of all concerned given after a full disclosure of the facts. Within the meaning of this Canon, a lawyer represents conflicting interests when, in behalf of one client, it is his duty to contend for that which duty to another client requires him to oppose.”
The situation here presented involves one where, conceivably, the attorney, as a result of his personal dealings with the landlord, might, at least in the opinion of some of his clients, be influenced to be less diligent in their behalf.
Prior to opening negotiations with the landlord, the attorney should fully disclose to his clients all the circumstances in the situation, including his proposed personal dealings with the landlord, and if any of his clients should object, he should either refrain from negotiating or withdraw as attorney. We also believe that he should disclose the situation to the landlord. Although the landlord, of course, would not be a client, we believe that at least the spirit of Canon 6 is applicable.
November 7, 1957.